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Summer break

Another interesting time for financial services. Looking back a year on from Lehman, we are well beyond the total panic of Armageddon that took hold last year and continued in a variety of forms until early March, when Western stockmarkets took off for one of the longest rallies ever – worryingly, the longest since the big bear rallies of the early 1930s.

But how, if at all, have these endogenous events (to use Gordon Brown’s favourite word) affected recruitment over the past six months?

Stockmarkets and the financial services sales recruitment market are not in lock-step although they have a relationship which is (confusingly) sometimes in synch and, during other periods, out of step. Intuitively, when the stockmarkets are high, so is confidence and the demand for sales staff and so the converse should also be true.

I can only go on personal experience from within my own company and I am wary of this convenient statement for the following reasons.

The stockmarket was in an awful position between October 2008 and March 9, 2009 – almost all asset classes were falling in value and few people were investing in anything at all, yet we were dealing with a fairly wide range of investment houses, many of which hoped, as we did, that the carnage would not last.

As things just got worse after Christmas and the New Year, optimism took a decided back seat and many of our vacancies were either pulled or were just in abeyance – not making a decision was a seen as a positive decision.

There was not much of an Isa season and we found we were spending increasing amounts of time interviewing some very successful salespeople who had been made redundant.

The first week of May arrived with the news of the demise of the Hartford and the endgame between Clerical Medical and Scottish Widows, with around 240 salespeople being reduced to 110 or so. Despite what outsiders might think, such large-scale redundancies do not benefit recruiters and are often a personal tragedy for those involved.

May was spent interviewing and counselling those who had been made redundant and there were fairly few opportunities for these candidates.

As the summer progressed, however, it became apparent that there was something of a sea-change in attitudes from candidates and clients and recruitment picked up again although in a different form.

Some broker consultants made the traditional move into being IFAs. Investment broker consultants started looking at “revenue-sharing” or commission-only roles and smaller boutique operators snapped up some of the people who had been made redundant.

With many asset classes recovering, alternative asset managers were able to recruit people who previously would not have considered working for niche operations.

In conclusion, this summer has been the opposite of the weather. It was in the doldrums when the weather was good in early summer and then, when the rains came, both stockmarkets and job opportunities increased although the range of roles is different from what was available a year ago.

Harris Keillar is managing director of Keillar Resourcing

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